You know that your most valuable asset is your team. You’ve read up about wellbeing and you’re proud of some of the initiatives you’ve introduced. But are your workplace practices protecting your employees’ most critical skill – their attention.
Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, says for employees to produce at their peak level they need to work for extended periods with full concentration on a single task free from distraction. He argues that focus is “the new IQ in the modern workplace”. The ability to focus and do deep work means that people produce better results in less time. To do this they must be free of distraction in a time when there has never been more.
Deep work does not mean no downtime. In fact, working long hours without downtime can be detrimental to a deep work practice. Downtime rests your best people’s brains so they’re ready for their next deep work session. So don’t get rid of the beanbags.
Deep work requires single focus which means the ability to block out distraction and work on only one task without anything else in your mind. Facilitate deep work sessions in your workplace. Remove as much clutter from your team’s workload in favour of about four hours of deep work a day. De-prioritise workplace tasks that stop people from diving deep. Shorten meetings, reduce admin as much as possible, and do away with constant task switching (and its cost).
Shop around for the right automated workflow tools for your business to streamline your work processes. Introduce time management life hacks people can use for managing their time and attention during deep work sessions as well as for expediting shallow work tasks. A personal favourite is the pomodoro method.
Think about ways to boost creativity. Look at reforming workplace practices that are inspiration killers. The relentless 8-hour working day, for example, is the enemy of creative work. Your employees are not automatons. They will be more productive if they can work to their own routines.
The 40-hour working week is also in its twilight time. Read up on the four-day working week and consider a trial.
Talk to your team about introducing flexi-work. Flexible working hours enable your team to start and finish their day when it suits them and reduce the stress of the peak-time commute.
If you hadn’t considered remote working before Covid-19 you’ve now had the chance to trial it. Working from home, or from wherever they want, means your people can mix up their daily environment as well as accommodate the needs of their families.
These initiatives are about a change in mindset. By introducing some or all of them you’re signalling to your team that you respect their individuality. This will increase their sense of wellbeing and the link between productivity and wellbeing is established. You’re empowering your team to create the working conditions in which they do their best work. In other words you’re getting them to own their day.